Skip to content

Next Up: A House for Mr. Biswas

You guys voted for the next novel last week, and A House for Mr. Biswas it is.

This novel is V.S. Naipaul’s only appearance on the Time list. Time describes the novel as such:

A House for Mr. Biswas is the life story of a man who wanted only a home, but who was a magnet for misfortune, oppression and humiliation, “a wanderer with no place he could call his own, with no family except that which he was to attempt to create out of the engulfing world of the Tulsis.” Mohun’s survival is a triumph of resilience and persistence and humor, an epic of dignity and self-respect doggedly clung to.

A few other facts about A House for Mr. Biswas and V.S. Naipaul:

  • The novel was published in 1961 and is often thought of as Naipaul’s signature work.
  • It was adapted to a stage musical directed by Monty Norman.
  • Biswas was also adapted for a two-part radio dramatization for BBC Radio in 2006.
  • The novel is based on Naipaul’s childhood experiences.
  • In addition to Mr. Biswas, Naipaul has written more than a dozen other novels and more than a dozen pieces of nonfiction.

In 1983, Naipaul had this to say about A House for Mr. Biswas:

The book took three years to write. It felt like a career; and there was a short period, towards the end of the writing, when I do believe I knew all or much of the book by heart. The labour ended; the book began to recede. And I found that I was unwilling to re-enter the world I had created, unwilling to expose myself again to the emotions that lay below the comedy. I became nervous of the book. I haven’t read it since I passed the proofs in May 1961.

Can you imagine not reading your own novel for more than 20 years? Sounds like writing it was an emotional experience for him.

Like so many other books I’ve read from the list, I have no idea what to expect.

Many of you guys recommended A House for Mr. Biswas, so tell me why I’m going to like it!

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. you seem to enjoy reading anyway, even the bad ones, really


    December 9, 2014
  2. Yes, I can imagine not reading something I’d written 20 years ago; the posts that I wrote a couple of months ago usually give me pain, and a novel would be so many more words.

    I’ve never read any V. S. Naipaul but have seen his name on lists for years: curiosity would be my motive for reading (and reason for you to read as well).

    Liked by 1 person

    December 9, 2014
  3. Some years ago, I read Paul Theroux’s memoir of his friendship with V S Naipaul, SIR VIDIA’S SHADOW. In this case, I wouldn’t spend much time on the writer. Spend it on the novel. Like Picasso and so many other great artists, V S Naipaul does not come off well as a human being.


    December 9, 2014
  4. Susan #

    Why would anyone want to re-read their own work? They already know how it ends.


    December 9, 2014
    • That’s assuming you read a story just to know how it ends. When I read something I read just 10 years ago, sometimes I feel like a different person wrote. It’s weird how much can happen and how one person change over the years.


      December 9, 2014
  5. Denise #

    I’ve read A Bend In The River by Naipaul and it was thickly layered with meaning and things to really think about. It’s a book I’ve read a couple times now and still find new things in, so I hope A House For Mr. Biwas is similarly thought-provoking for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 9, 2014
  6. I loved A House, and other books by VS Naipaul. It’s one of the greatest books I’ve read. I think the writing and characterization are superb. I can completely understand that the author didn’t want to go back to reading the novel. When reading the book you can understand that he must have poured all his energies into it, which must have been exhausting. The other thing is that the story, although humourous and frequently slapstick, is also a tale of embarrassment, frustration, humiliation and shame. It wouldn’t surprise me if Naipaul didn’t feel like revisiting all those autobiographical strains, until he had gained a good deal of distance from them. I’m interpreting now.


    December 9, 2014
  7. I would venture to say that a writer not revisiting an early or emotionally taxing work is not that uncommon. I know that Stephen King threw The Gunslinger (Dark Tower book 1) in the garbage; if it had not been for his wife, many King fans would not have been able to enjoy the eight book epic fantasy saga! One reason for King’s original discarding of the novel: the main character made him uncomfortable.
    I have also found myself unwilling to revisit some of my own creative shorts that covered extremely difficult times in my life. As always, I look forward to reading about what you think of this novel.

    Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 9, 2014
  8. sitanaik #

    It’s funny and you grow to love the character…… re-read it recently after a gap of 2-3 decades. Likes it more


    December 10, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Book #77: A House For Mr. Biswas | 101 Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: